Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
by Rae Carson
432 pages
Middle School+

Princess Elisa has never felt like a proper princess.  She is the younger, fatter, and definitely less attractive princess in the kingdom.  But despite this, she has been chosen to bear the Godstone, a privilege granted to one person a century.  In spite of this great honor, Elisa feels small and unremarkable. 

Then comes her abrupt marriage to a neighboring monarch, King Alejandro de Vega.  He marries her, takes her home across the desert, and then neglects to tell everyone in his home kingdom that they are wed.  While this marriage seems to be a farce, Alejandro still expects the troops promised with the marriage to help him in a war against the enemy kingdom.

Elisa feels so confused.  For the first time in her life, she must truly be a princess.  She must play the political games in court, stand up for herself, and also learn the truth about her Godstone.  Frightening scripture she had never read before hints at purposes for her Godstone that Elisa had never imagined.  Just as she is on the verge of gaining more information on it, she is kidnapped and stolen away from her husband.

Now even more changes face Elisa.  While she had been growing more attached to her husband, is has also seen his flaws.  In captivity, she can't decide if she misses her husband, or is glad to get away from it all.  More secrets are discovered and friends are found as Elisa journeys through the desert to the rebels hideout.  Here, Elisa must discover the true nature of the enemies threatening both her kingdoms, how to fight them, and where her heart lies.

So, I listened to this read on CD, instead of reading it to myself.  While that affected the pace a little, it still seemed a little slow to me at times.  Despite trying to like this book, I had a hard time getting in to it.  It might be because of the slow start (whether due to the writing or listening to it on CD is debatable), but I think it had to do with a couple of the themes throughout the book.

First theme I want to address is self image.  Elisa is fat.  Or at least starts that way.  When she is fat, she barely has a positive thing to think about herself.  As she journeys through the desert, she slims down.  While not exactly "skinny," she definitely changes enough that she gains attention because of her new body shape.  This is when she starts feeling confident, powerful, and positive about herself.  To me (as an overweight woman), this is sending the entirely wrong message about a connection between body weight and self worth.  Elisa has a hard time feeling positive about herself, and feeling in control of herself when she is fat.  While not all of her confidence is coming because of her body changes, I feel that there was too much connection between her feeling confident in herself and losing weight.  That is one reason why I couldn't give this book my full approval.

Another theme that I noticed was how fleeting her love was. ***SPOILER ALERT!*** When someone Elisa loves is killed in front of her and dies in her arms, she is upset.  I would usually cry buckets at a point like this.  But I did NOT cry.  There was something lacking, either in the writing or in Elisa's emotional attachment to this character.  To me, she recovered from this much too quickly, and was a little fleeting and shallow in her love interests.  And she even was attracted to someone twice, once after learning some harsh truths about him.  To me, that does not make sense.

Anyways, if I were to recommend this, I would give it to mostly high school, unless it was a mature middle school kid.  While nothing inappropriate happens between Elisa and her love interests, Elisa is very interested in something possibly happening, plus there is some graphic violence in it.  There are other books that will recommend before this one.  It was okay, but not spectacular.  I know there is a sequel out that I might read in book format, instead of listening, to see if that would make a difference in the pacing.

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